sentence case (titles)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Sentence case is the conventional way of using capital letters in a sentence--that is, capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns. (Contrast with title case.)

In most newspapers in the U.S. (and in virtually all publications in the U.K.), sentence case (also known as down style and reference style) is the standard form for headlines.

See Examples and Observations below.

Examples and Observations

  • "The 100-year-old scientist who pushed the FDA to ban artificial trans fat"
  • "Barack Obama flies to thank troops who killed Bin Laden"
  • "FBI investigating Cardinals' alleged hacking of Astros' computer system"
  • AP Style: Headlines
    "Only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized..."
  • APA Style: Sentence Style in Reference Lists
    "In titles of books and articles in reference lists, capitalize only the first word, the first word after a colon or em dash, and proper nouns. Do not capitalize the second word of a hyphenated compound."
  • "Librarians and bibliographers work with minimal capitals [i.e., sentence case], . . . yet [other options] are well established in literary tradition. For many people there's virtue in using [sentence case] in lists and bibliographies, but using one of the other options for titles quoted in the course of a written discussion."
  • "In major companies, the problem of consistency may be largely unreconcilable. The public relations department has to use a 'down style' because it is writing for newspapers, but department heads insist on capitalizing the names of titles and departments..."

Sources

  • The Washington Post, June 16, 2015
  • The Guardian [U.K.], May 7, 2011
  • Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester, N.Y.], June 16, 2015
  • The Associated Press Stylebook: 2013, edited by Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. The Associated Press, 2013
  • (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. American Psychological Association, 2010
  • Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge University Press, 2004
  • Donald Bush and Charles P. Campbell, How to Edit Technical Documents. Oryx Press, 1995